Father Tomasz Zalewski processes in with a relic of St. Thomas the Apostle at the beginning of the Mass of Rededication of St. John the Evangelist Parish celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. (ANN AND MORRIE DOYLE)

New church is built of ‘living stones’

Naples  |  On Saturday, June 29, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Rededication of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples. The Church sustained significant damage in the wake of Hurricane Irma in 2017. Hundreds attended to participate in this Liturgy. 

Many were affected by the severe weather that hammered this region of Southwest Florida. Those who attend this Parish faced similar ordeals. Families were displaced as damages were repaired and energy was restored. The faithful of the area come to St. John the Evangelist to be spiritually restored, fulfilled, and energized. Bishop Dewane would address these aspects of a Church in his homily.

During the Introductory Rite, the Bishop blessed the water and sprinkled it on the parishioners, the walls, and the altar. This blessing was a source of spiritual renewal for the worshiping community.

Later, the Bishop began his homily by saying two simple words, “Thank you.” He thanked the people of the Parish for their dedication and efforts throughout the process of rebuilding the church. They made this day a reality. He told them, “The church is a special sign.” This is where one comes to experience the sacraments and “to celebrate the Eucharist.”

The Bishop referred to them as “living stones” saying that “the temple of God is built of living stones.” This message echoed throughout the whole congregation. They were now witnessing the fruits of their labors, their contributions, and their prayers.

Following the homily, the rededication continued with the Litany of the Saints, and then the deposition of the relic. Father Tomasz Zalewski, Pastor of St. John the Evangelist, carried in the relic of St. Thomas the Apostle and later placed it into the altar. The Bishop then poured Sacred Chrism onto the altar and anointed it, making it a symbol of Christ. He also anointed the walls of the Church with the sign of the cross, marking its return to Christian worship.

The incensation of the altar and the walls of the church then took place. This signified Christ’s sacrifice and made the Church a house of prayer once again. The altar was then covered representing the table of the Lord, where the Eucharist would soon be celebrated. This house of worship that had been resurrected was now officially restored to new life.

The rededication culminated with the lighting of the altar and the church. This is a reminder to all of the light of Christ, which shines forth to the world. This was a reverberation of the Bishop’s earlier comments, when he said, “You are the light of the world that Christ has put here.”

Each of these events represented a unique and significant aspect of the beauty of the Catholic Faith. All were informed, during the homily, what would take place and why. They were encouraged to be attentive and to pray throughout, especially during the incensation portion.

Bishop Dewane asked them to offer up prayers to God for their needs. He also asked them to offer prayers up for all clergy and for our world. He assured them that these will certainly be needed to accept and overcome the challenges of our times.

The community of St. John the Evangelist Parish immersed themselves fully into this Mass of Rededication for their Church. This was a day that had been long awaited. The Bishop said that a Church is “dedicated solely and permanently for that which is sacred.” Those fortunate enough to attend and witness this occasion now have a newfound understanding and appreciation for those words.

Many individuals dedicated endless hours of hard work and support to this endeavor. They helped make this event possible for both the Diocese of Venice and for the people of Naples. The renovations and repairs consisted of some of the following:

• Demolition of existing bell tower and redesign for new bell tower on the new roof,

• Interior repairs consisted of repairing existing wood ceiling and refinishing,

• Replacement of all interior overhead lighting from water damage,

• New floors, pews, and new liturgical upgrades including a crucifix and statues,

• Refinishing of existing front entry doors and frames.

Father Zalewski also recognized and thanked others who contributed to this mission of repairing, rebuilding, and refurbishing the Church: David Tropf & Wayne Herbert of Gates Construction; Chris Ressler & Stephanie McPherson with Studios Plus Architects; Brian Baker with Baker Liturgical Art, LLC; Doug Graber with Sauder Worship Seating; Central Music Inc; Bo Nepip and Jane Gaia, with the Diocese of Venice Office of Construction.